Emmanuel Macron’s recent controversial move to “directly address Moroccans” about France’s support for Morocco’s earthquake is drawing a wave of criticism and backlash from frustrated Moroccans, with many questioning the president’s motives and the breach of protocol that characterized his message.
Taking to social media to respond to Macron’s video message, thousands of Moroccans have called it a “stupid,” “impulsive” idea, as well as a “snap decision.” In particular, they stressed that King Mohammed VI is the only legitimate person to deliver such a solemn address to the Moroccan people.
This critical reaction came after Macron posted a video on his social media on Tuesday night, pledging France’s support to Morocco amid the devastating earthquake that struck Morocco on Friday, September 8 – killing over 2,900 people as of the latest data published yesterday.
In the video, Macron said he wanted to “speak directly” to all Moroccans, to express solidarity and address recent controversy.
“There have been many unnecessary controversies in recent days. We have the possibility to provide direct humanitarian assistance,” Macron said, noting that this is a sovereign decision and that it is “the sovereign right of His Majesty the King and the Government of Morocco to organize international aid.”
The French government has expressed its readiness to support Morocco through this tragedy since the “very first second, and in a completely normal way.” Macron said, noting that France is at the disposal of Morocco’s sovereign decision regarding the French offer to help.
Despite his professed aim to show respect for Moroccan sovereignty and address uncalled for controversy caused by French media’s coverage of Moroccan relief efforts, Macron appeared to fuel French media’s claims that the Moroccan government had rejected French aid.
More concerningly, critics argued in response to Macron’s video message, Macron appeared to subtly to legitimize the mainstream French media’s contemptible discredit of the Moroccan government’s commitment to relief efforts, namely the subtle suggestion that the North African country needs Paris’s help to efficiently tackle the devastating aftermath of Friday’s earthquake.
Recalling the tense, fragile state of French-Moroccan relations, many Moroccans responded to Macron’s remarks by describing his decision to address Moroccans as counterproductive and “impulsive.”
“Mr. Macron, we do not address the Moroccan people directly like that. Only the king of Morocco can address the Moroccan people like that. You are showing extreme clumsiness,” one Twitter user wrote.
Another Twitter user also denounced Macron’s move, stressing that “Moroccan people do not want support or help from you or from your TV clowns… Stupid Macron.”
Paris-Morocco relations have considerably deteriorated
Macron’s controversial video speech and the hostile French media’s widely decried coverage of Morocco’s earthquake relief efforts come amid an already fragile diplomatic relationship between the two countries due to France’s ambiguous position on a matter of utmost importance to Morocco’s sense of nationhood.
In recent months and years, Paris’s repeated embrace of positions that challenge Morocco’s sovereignty over its southern provinces in Western Sahara as well as France’s links to media and political smear campaigns to undermine EU-Moroccan relations and tarnish Moroccan reputation have conclusively soured and upended the one-time “brotherly” and “deeply strategic” friendship between Paris and Rabat.
Taher Benjelloun, one of Morocco’s iconic authors also recently suggested that Macron’s “clumsy” attitude towards King Mohammed VI has been another factor in the deepening deterioration in French-Moroccan diplomatic relations.
In an interview with Israeli news TV i24News earlier this year, Benjelloun reported a reliable, high-ranked Moroccan source as conforming to him that Macron’s inelegant behavior towards the Moroccan monarch in a recent conversation played a central role in exacerbating what was then a simmering but manageable diplomatic rift between Paris and Rabat.
According to Benjelloun, Macron overtly disrespected the Moroccan monarch during the conversation, with the French president “clumsily” telling the Moroccan King off after bringing up Morocco’s alleged spying on him with Israeli spyware Pegasus.
“I give you my word of honor that I did not spy on you. It’s not my style,” Benjelloun quoted the King as responding to the French president’s complaint.
But “Macron answered him with a few things that I cannot say here,” Benejelloune added. “He answered him in an awkward way and the King didn’t like it because he had given him his word of honor and Macron didn’t believe it. Relations [between Morocco and France] have since been broken.”
Following Macron’s comments, King Mohammed VI reportedly hung up on him and declined his subsequent phone calls.